Search just our sites by using our customised search engine
Unique Cottages | Electric Scotland's Classified Directory

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Dr Alexander Cameron
Chapter II. Student Days

It is very remarkable how oftentimes the man and the hour arrive at the right moment, or the opportunity offers and being seized success is assured. This is the tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood leads on to fortune.

One day as Mr Cameron was returning from school, with his small collection of books under his arm, he was met on the meadow below Ruthven by Professor Bannerman, who may have heard some one speak of the precocious youth, or who may have remarked something striking and interesting in the frank open countenance. At any rate, he entered into conversation with him, and asked if he would like to become a minister. The instant reply was, “Yes, but circumstances render it impossible.” Dr Bannerman indicated a way of overcoming obstacles that loomed large in the distance, and from that day the ministry became the aim and ambition of the young man, who had already made no little progress in his studies. It is a trite observation that on small events hang great and incalculable issues. This casual colloquy proved the turning point of the career awaiting the future able preacher and distinguished Celtic philologist.

When Alexander Cameron entered the University of Edinburgh, he was about twenty years of age, but he was not so well equipped for the studious and arduous task awaiting him as many of his compeers. He had not passed through the regular training of a secondary school, and had never attempted any composition in English—his first essay having been written for one of the professors. And yet in all his classes he took a very high place, in several he gained eminent distinction, and in Logic he stood second. He indicated possession of indomitable energy and great determination to succeed in any object taken in hand. He was known to give up contemplated attendance on certain classes in order to attain a foremost place in others. He got on exceedingly well in Mathematics, and frequently solved problems that none else in the class succeeded in sending in correct solutions for. And some of these he used to give as pastime posers to mathematically-inclined students of recent times. Towards the close of his student period at the University, his mind was occupied mainly with Logic and Philosophy, for distinction in which he obtained first-class prizes and special praise from his professors. As proof of the progress made by one whose acquaintance with essay-writing dates from his college days, it is worthy of note to find that Professor Macdougall presents him with a prize “ as a token of high appreciation of his spirit and ability as a voluntary and very successful essayist in the Moral Philosophy Class, University of Edinburgh, session 1853-4.” Professor Kelland awards Potts’ Euclid “to Alexander Cameron as a prize in the First Class of Mathematics, 1850.” Professor Eraser presented “Brown’s Philosophy” to him “as a memorial of distinction in Logie and Metaphysics at New College, Edinburgh, 1848.” When afterwards Mr Cameron became a candidate for the Celtic chair in the University of Edinburgh, Professor Eraser, in recommending him, said:—“The Rev. Alexander Cameron was known to me as a meritorious student during his undergraduate course, distinguished in particular in Logic and in Moral Philosophy.”

During this period, as is customary with students, he formed life-long friendships—some of his college contemporaries being Professor Veitch; the late Sheriff Clark, Glasgow; Sheriff Nicolson; Dr Oliver, Denniston; the late Rev. A. Urquhart, Glasgow; Rev. E. Gordon; Rev. N. Dewar, Kingussie; Rev. J. Geddes, Glasgow; the late Rev. J. Baillie, Gairloch; the late Rev. Mr Rose, Poolewe; the Rev. Hugh Macmillan, D.D., LL.D., Greenock, &c. Frequently in later life he was wont to refer to the positions and career of all who, in his time, held prominent places at college, and to compare the promise of youth with the performance, or reverse, of after life.

One minister from Badenoch has said that he, when a young man, cordially hated Mr Cameron, because he was always instanced and insisted upon as an example to imitate, and to spur on to greater effort and diligence. On this point the Rev. Alex. Urquhart, Glasgow, one of the most popular and best beloved of Highland ministers, said at a later date:—“I have known the "Rev. Alex. Cameron, F.O. Minister, Brodick, from his boyhood— at school and during his university course—and never ceased to admire his studious habits, earnest purpose, and indomitable perseverance in the face of many difficulties and much discomfort.” It was a common thing for students who were not possessed of independent means to occupy their time during the summer holiday teaching, and sometimes, as is still frequently the case, the student remained at his post during winter--thereby missing a session. Mr Cameron, towards the end of 1851, went to Thurso to teach, where he continued until well on in 1853, performing most conscientiously and successfully all the duties devolving upon him; but some were of opinion that his discipline was, if anything, somewhat too strict. Yet, there are many at this date occupying influential positions who acknowledge great indebtedness to his thoroughness in teaching, and the enthusiasm with which he inspired them. He also took part in the instruction of children at the Sabbath School, conducted a Bible class, and delivered occasional addresses, which were very much appreciated by the older people, as testified in casual correspondence. Mr David Mow. It writes from Thurso, under date Dec. 6th, 1853:—“We received your very welcome letter, and were happy to know by it that you were well—as this leaves us all well at present. We were talking much and long that we did not hear from you for such a length of time. I would not wish that we were so forgetful of your goo I company while you were with us, for I am sure there is not a day passes but what your name is always spoken of by us, nor, I hope, time will never efface your remembrance amongst us.” Divergence of opinion still obtains as to the desirability of young students attempting any stated religious service, and at that date the prevailing opinion was more pronounced against the plan than at present. And, probably, in fairness to probationers or licentiates, restrictive limits should be assigned. But in the case of a young man like Mr Cameron, it could not fail in being beneficial educationally as well as monetarily.

During the summer and autumn of 1854, Mr Cameron was stationed as missionary at Portnahaven, iu Islay. Here his services were very acceptable to the people, as the sequel will show. Many traced the beginnings of their spiritual life and experiences to the impression made by his carefully prepared and able addresses. The attachment to the missionary then and thus formed continued for many years—indeed, to the end of life. This is how he speaks of the people of Islay in a letter of later date, which connects this with his future sphere, addressed to an old and intimate friend :—

“Renton, by Dumbarton, April 20th, 1855.

“My Dear Friend,—I have now been in Renton for four successive Sabbaths, and it seems that I am engaged to remain in the place during the summer. I shall now endeavour to inform you how this arrangement came about.

“I was expecting all the winter that my former station in Islay should be my summer destination. All over the winter I thought, wrote, and spoke as if this were a settled point. The people of Portnahaven were expecting me back, and the Committee were expecting that I should go. I was not privately engaged for Islay, but there was an understanding between every party concerned that I should return thither as soon as I should be free from the labours of the Session. I experienced so much kindness, and I may add encouragement, from the people of Portnahaven last summer that I was longing very earnestly to return to them again. Indeed, my regard for Islay is at this moment scarcely less strong than my regard for Insli and the scenes of my boyhood.

“I was longing the more to return to Islay because the Highland Committee found it impossible to send another in my place when I returned to Edinburgh before the beginning of last session. The station has been since supplied by Mr Ross, the teacher, a pious and intelligent man, whose services ought to be more acceptable to the people than those of perhaps any probationer or student-catechist the Committee could send. You are well aware, however, that the majority of hearers everywhere prefer one whom they may, whether legitimately or not, daub with the name, and clothe with the authority and functions, not to speak of the importance of ‘the minister,’ to a layman, however great his Christian experience and however profound his views of divine truth. It would be too much to say that the people of Portnahaven are exempt from this prejudice, and hence they must be thinking that they have been neglected entirely last winter, and indeed, as far as the Committee are concerned, neglected they have been, more than they had been ever before, 1 believe, since the Disruption.

“Apart from the destitution of Portnahaven, I was myself anxious enough to shake myself free from the toil and labours of the session—labours which I found mere than ordinarily severe.

By this time, indeed, my energies were quite prostrate, and some were hinting that the sooner I would betake myself to the country the better for me. Accordingly, about two weeks before the end of the session, I called upon Mr Maclauchlan to communicate to him my intention of returning to Islay on the following Monday, if in the interval I could get the arrangements for my departure completed. I then hardly expected that I could leave so early. It happened that I was appointed President, at the beginning of the session, of one of the societies formed among the students for their mutual improvement, and the society appointed me to take a leading part in a debate on the following Friday, and to deliver what is called the Valedictory Address on the Friday following that one. To meet these engagements it would be necessary for me to remain in town until the end of the session.”

The above extract paves the way for the introduction of Renton, where Mr Cameron arrived for the first time in February, 1855, and where he was destined to pass a large part of his active life. Perhaps it is best to quote further from the same letter, as the subject-matter is very interesting, although the minutue are somewhat too detailed :—

“I shall now pass to Renton. I think the first mention which I ever heard made of Renton was by yourself, when you told me some years ago of Donald Duffs appearance, when appointed Catechist to this place, before the Presbytery of Dumbarton. The next time I heard anything of the place was about this time last year. "When the Kingussie people declined to send for Mr Charles Ross, now in Aberdeen, he accepted an invitation from the people of Renton, and he was leaving them about this time last year. Mr Neil Dewar, an intimate acquaintance of mine, succeeded him for a few Sabbaths, and it was from him that I heard next of Renton, and since that time my mind had some kind of vague indefinable leaning towards the place. One of the Renton people was in Islay last summer, and he was speaking to me about going to the place. Indeed, he promised that they would send for me for a Sabbath during the winter. But the winter passed away without any word ever coming to me from Renton, and two weeks before the end of the session I had very little thought that this very Renton was to be my summer destination.”

Mr Charles Corbett next preached at Renton and gave satisfaction, but was not fixed upon finally. Then Mr Christopher Munro—afterwards at Strathy, where he was long and highly appreciated—preached at Renton—and it is not without interest to give a fellow-student’s estimate of him:—

“In the evening Mr Munro and myself had a long walk together, in the course of which we spoke about Renton. I told him that I should like very well to accompany him as a hearer. For a long time before I expressed to Mr Baillie (now of Gairloch) my anxious desire to hear Mr Munro speak upon the truth, for he is universally allowed to be distinguished for his piety above most, if not all, his fellow--students. He objected to my accompanying him, but he told me that the people of Renton were wishing to hear some young men from among whom they might choose one for the summer, and, if I should like, he would mention me to them. I told him I would not go as a candidate, but that I would have no objection to going for a day. He told me that he would not go to the place himself although he should be asked —that his mind was made up to go to a station in Skye, to which the Committee were proposing to send him. That station is Kilinuir. Mr Munro was in the parish as a teacher about two years ago, and his services were so much appreciated by the people that they made application for his services as catechist during this summer. The station is to be sanctioned at the ensuing General Assembly, and Mr Munro being now through his studies, will be licensed by that time ; and I understand that the people of Kilmuir are looking forward to getting him settled altogether among them. Air Munro himself, however, is not greatly in love with the idea of settling down in Skye. His health is rather delicate, and the climate of Skye is too moist for agreeing well with his constitution; and hence he is resolving not to remain in Skye if he can help it. What should prevent the people of either Kingussie, Abtrnethy, or Duthil from improving this hint ? If I had to choose a minister for myself from among all the probationers and students with whom I am acquainted, Mr Munro would be my choice. He drank tea one evening with Mr Baillie and myself, and Mr Baillie, who is not easily pleased, was so much taken up with him that he wished me to write you about him as one who might suit Kingussie.

. . . . “Were it not for Mr Christopher Munro I would not, in all probability, have seen the Vale of Leven (in which beautiful valley Renton is situated) this summer. So you see how much depends on the character of those who certify your merits. Mr Munro returned to Edinburgh on the Monday, and soon after he informed me that he was asked to apply to me for going to Renton next Sabbath. I told him as before that I would go that Sabbath, but not as a candidate—that my mind in reference to Islay was unchanged. After Mr Munro got my consent for the Sabbath in question, he wrote to Renton intimating that they might expect me on the Saturday, and that, after considering their proposal about his staying with them, if they would be pleased with his poor services he would go to them for a time, unless they would make up their minds to keep Mr Cameron.

“Mr Munro and myself had a walk together on Tuesday evening. He then informed me that since his return from Renton he had been considering their proposal about going to them for a time—that he knew the Skye people would Vie trying to keep him altogether if he went there—that he considered the climate as too damp for his constitution, and, especially, that in the meantime he would not have a comfortable lodging-place in Kilmuir—considering all these things lie was inclined to embrace the Invitation from the Renton people. At the same time he saw obstacles in the way of his going to Renton. I advised him to go to Renton. At the same time, however, I sympathised so much with his difficulties that I proposed his going with myself to Islay for a few weeks until he would be licensed; for if he were licensed, he would not go either to Renton or to Islay.”

Notwithstanding a severe illness, brought on by a chill caught while talking protractedly to his friend, Mr Cameron, on Friday, read a discourse to Professor Bannerman, presided at the Students’ Society meeting in the evening, and set out for Renton on Saturday. And this is how he describes his experience on the following day:—

“21st. On Sabbath I could only compare myself to an ox unaccustomed to the yoke—it has been so long since I addressed a congregation before, although I had been from time to time during the winter addressing meetings. I got through the forenoon exercises pretty comfortably ; but I became unwell when in the midst of the evening service, and had to stop for two or three minutes while two verses of a Psalm were being sung. After the singing I continued the subject, and I found myself then just at ease. That was the first time since I opened my mouth in public that I was obliged to stop in the middle of a discourse from any cause whatever. It is rather curious that the same thing happened to Donald Duff on his first appearance in Renton. Two of the people paid me every attention, accompanied me to my lodgings, and insisted on my staying in the place the following day, when one of them offered to accompany me to some of the objects of interest in the neighbourhood. I complied, and on Monday evening a few of them gathered in a private house, where I had an opportunity of addressing them for some time from a portion of the 14th of John’s Gospel.

“I received a good deal of information on the Monday regarding the station and its past history. I need not, however, dwell upon these matters; for if you may feel ant’ curiosity regarding them, Donald Duff can give you more information than I can afford time to write you. I may mention, however, that they have had no regular supply since .Mr James Grant left them for Alvie and Rothiemurehus. Since that time they have been shifting for themselves as best they could. . . .

"I have also a habit of speaking out my mind more plainly than one courting the favour of such men as ought to do. The truth is, I never cared very much about him as a preacher, and hence it is impossible for me to feel for him that profound reverence and respect which I entertain for such men as Mr Kennedy of Dingwall. In presence of such men as the latter I feel abashed, but before such men as the former I am apt to speak and act in a manner calculated to leave upon their minis the impression that I am a young man who is very ready to go out of his own place. The feeling to which T have referred you can easily appreciate. Before Donald Cattanach, Joseph Mackay, John Sutherland, and many other worthy Christians I have often felt as if I could wish to lie down at their feet ; but before some of the stars of less magnitude. ... I may have often spoken so as to make them carry away the impression regarding me that I would be the better of getting my wings clipped. This suggests to my mind a thought which I should wish to impress upon you, although you are older and more experienced than I am. Solomon says:—‘Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child, but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.’ The old Christian often thinks that it is his duty to use the rod of correction to drive foolishness from the heart of the young Christian. The rod of correction, however, belongs to wiser and steadier hands—to the hands of the child's father. The aged Christian ought to reprove and counsel the young Christian, but the reproof and counsel ought to be administered in gentleness and love. The aged Christian ought to remember that he too was once a foolish child, knowing but little of himself and less of others."

A passing remark regarding the persons mentioned in this letter may be permitted. Rev. James Grant was ordained and inducted at Alvie and Rothiemurehus soon after this date. He was a very remarkable man, who combined in his preaching the quaintness and directness of the old puritans with the fervour and power of his own period. He was somewhat of a hermit, and he devoted all his spare hours studiously and successfully to astronomy. Professor Grant of Glasgow University frequently spoke highly of his astronomical attainments and curious researches, despite his being sadly handicapped by the lack of requisite instruments for observation. His valuable papers, by which he set great store, passed into the hands of his nephew, Rev. Mr Grant, now in Australia; but the hope of seeing them published has been already unduly deferred. Mr Grant was a great pedestrian, and would have none of the modern enervating travelling facilities. His most memorable characteristic was his profound piety.

A little later, Rev. N. Dewar was settled at Kingussie, where he still labours, and is well-known as a Gaelic scholar and translator of the Bible.

The name and fame of Dr Kennedy of Dingwall is fresh and fragrant in all the churches and needs no encomium of mine, though I have had great reason to acknowledge and commemorate his unrivalled hospitality, unfailing kindness, and unapproached power and influence as a persuasive and sublime preacher and born leader of men.

I have already alluded briefly to the institution of “the men,” or those wont to address Friday Fellowship Meetings, mainly in the North. Such speakers to the “question” or subject-matter of Christian experience, as distinguished from hollow or hypocritical profession, were frequently men of deep insight into human hearts, familiar with the alternating gloom and sunshine of a believer’s life, and widely versed in the truths and teaching of the Word of God.

Donald Cattanach, who is but lately deceased, was one of the most highly respected and earnestly looked-for speakers on a fellowship day. His knowledge and command of Scripture, as well as apt quotation and appropriate application, was simply marvellous, and his natural gift of tender and effective eloquence was entrancing. Like Ezekiel, he was unto the people “as a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice,” and to those of deepest discernment his pathetic and powerful words were as balm to a wounded spirit. Perhaps none who ever heard him at his best, or came under his sympathetic sway, could in a life-time forget the fact—the mysterious and inexplicable charm. And seldom did he end an address without rendering his audience sorry that he had not continued longer.

Donald Duff was a man of great ability and intellectual grasp and grip. Few men could so clearly and logically set forth the doctrines of Scripture in their bearing upon the consciences of men and the edifying of the Church of Christ. He was well-fitted and equipped by long experience and close meditation upon the deep things of the Spirit of God to deal with hard and knotty problems, on which he invariably threw a flood of light. Many a troubled soul found rest and consolation in listening to his wise; and weighty words. On a question day he was generally called last—an acknowledgment of his unquestioned power and penetration, which sometimes might be mistaken for critical severity but which, I have no doubt, were the genuine outcome of a luminous mind and of a conscientious discharge of duty. It is frequently impossible to handle truth accurately and adequately without giving unintended offence. His eloquence, which at the outset might be unremarked, was the product not so much of voice as of heart movement—the sustained result of continuous conviction and glowing motion due to the progress of a great and far-reaching argument that touched and traced the duty and destiny of the hearer.

From the letter last quoted, we find that Mr Cameron’s missionary work began at Renton, in February, 1855. He found much -work before him in the Vale of Leven, many difficulties to overcome, and not always all the sympathy that might be expected; but he could count on many fast and faithful friends, whose presence and support cheered and encouraged his heart. His influence was not confined to his immediate surroundings but extended to others in a correspondence which formed the medium of communicating counsel and consolation. To one in whom all his interest centred, and for whose welfare he had the utmost regard, he writes : —

“Renton, August 9th, 1855.—I hope that you will bear up under your affliction. The Lord may sanctify to you this dispensation, and then you will be able to say that it was good for von to be afflicted. Read and study those portions of the Word of God that treat of the suitableness of the Saviour to your own case, and of the freeness and fulness of the gospel offer. Remember that Christ is offered to you by the Father, by Himself, and by the Holy Spirit. The moment you receive Christ as He is freely offered to you, your sins will be pardoned, and your person will be accepted of God in Christ. What a glorious promise, even I, am He that blotteth out your sins, for mine own name’s sake (Isa. xliii. 25). The moment you embrace Christ, the God against whom you have sinned will freely pardon all your sins. But why not embrace Christ when He is freely offered to you by His Father ? In the gospel offer, the Father makes you a gift of His Son—His only begotten Son. Are you to refuse that Gift, and, by refusing it, to dishonour the Giver, and ensure the eternal destruction of your own soul? Cast yourself as a poor sinner upon Christ. Believe Him to be yours—yours in the offer, because He is the gift of the Father to sinners of the whole human race—yea, to every sinner out of hell who hears the word ; and therefore to you as one of them.”

“August 10th.— . . . Think much of the word I say, for it is faith’s favourite word. My Lord and my God, said Thomas, when his faith was in exercise. My is the appropriating word. See how often the Psalmist uses it in speaking of God. See Psalm 18 and Psalm 42, and many others. It is by appropriating Christ, by taking Him to yourself, that you are united to Him. He is always waiting to be gracious—waiting until you will accept Him. What a match! the Prince of Glory and the heir of hell! What a wonder that it is the heir of hell that objects to the match, and that the Prince of Glory is always ready—waiting, as it were, to espouse her. . . . It is from the assurance that Christ is yours and that you are His that comfort will flow to your soul, or, I should rather say, the comfort flows from Christ Himself, but the assurance of your interest in Him is the occasion of its flowing. Your comfort and your joy arises, not from the mere fact that Christ is an all-sufficient Saviour, but from the additional fact that this all-sufficient Saviour is yours—your own personal Saviour. Rest not satisfied, therefore, until you can say that your beloved is yours and that you are His. Seek to be every day more and more assured of that great truth. Remember, however, that your assurance must proceed, not from your feelings, but from your embracing Christ every day anew as your Saviour. The feeling of joy and peace is the consequence of the assurance, not the cause of it.”

“August 27th.— . . . Faith in Christ is the best support in trouble. We read of Moses, in Heb. xi. 27, that he endured as seeing Him who is invisible. It was believing the promise that sustained him in the time of his affliction. . . .

“But, you will say, how am I to know that the promise is mine—that God has said to me, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee 1 If the promise be not yours, it is because Christ is not yours ; and if Christ is not yours, it is because you, notwithstanding your need of Him, and his suitableness to your case, will not have Him when he is freely offered to you in the gospel. But if you have received Christ, as I believe you have, the promise is yours in Christ. The promise may not be coming; home with power to your heart at all times ; but that does not affect the truth of the promise, or of your right to it in Christ, for it is in Christ that the promises are yea and amen. You experience the promise coming home to you at times with such force and power that you feel perfectly persuaded that that promise is yours; while perhaps a few minutes after, you experience sin prevailing over you, unbelief obtains in your experience the upper hand, and you can no longer say that the promise is yours—you cannot even say that it was ever yours ; for, although you once believed it to be yours, you have no longer that persuasion, but, on the contrary, yon are afraid that your former experience was a presumption and a delusion. That, I think, is the way you feel, and it is the way which every Christian felt before you.

“I wish you, however, to reflect upon what I have now written, and which I believe to be your experience. If you examine it, you will soon discover the cause of the spiritual ailment—your want of evidence of Christ and His promises being yours—of which you complain. Sometimes you feel persuaded that Christ and the promise in Him are yours ; sometimes you feel the promise coming home with such force to your mind, and at that time you have no doubt of your interest in Christ, and of the everlasting arms being round about you. Then you have some measure of joy and peace. If you will now examine your case, as here stated, you will easily see that your prosperous time is when faith is the master of the house; in other words, when you are taking hold by faith, of Christ in the promise. Your joy and peace flow from your assurance of Christ being yours, and of your sins being-pardoned by His righteousness being imputed to you. True joy and peace can be experienced only when the soul is exercising faith upon God in the promise—see Rom. xv. 13, where the Apostle speaks of £joy and peace’ in believing. To be perpetually enjoying joy and peace, the soul must be always exercising faith upon the person of Christ; in other words, must be always receiving Christ and His blessings to itself—a state to which no believer attains on earth, because of the remains of sin in the soul. Our joy and peace, as I mentioned in a former letter, is in proportion to the strength of our assurance of Christ and His benefits being ours. . . .

“Your doubts arise from unbelief. When your faith is not exercised upon Cln-ist in the promise you lose sight of your evidence, and then you have not the firm assurance and persuasion that Christ is yours which you have when you are in the act of appropriating Him as He is offered. You look into your own heart, and you find it a cage of unclean birds—you find it full of every unclean thing. You then immediately conclude that you are not in Christ, otherwise these things could not be so. We are very liable to reason in this way; but it is a very fallacious way of reasoning. Why is it that the believer experiences the strength of sin more than any other, more than those who live under its power? The reason is very obvious. The believer resists sin— he strives against it, and hence it is that he knows from experience the strength of sin more than those who live habitually under its dominion. Sin is like a strong current or stream. When you glide down the stream you are not conscious of its strength; but the moment you set yourself against the stream you become sensible of its strength. You now see more of the filth and abomination of sin, and it will become, in consequence, more burdensome and hateful to you. But you very likely discover love to sin in your heart; but are you not conscious of hating your love to sin? How do you say that vain thoughts almost kill you, if they were not a trouble to you? Do you not find that you loathe yourself, that you are ashamed of yourself because you cherish sin so much in your heart? These are some of the marks of discipleship.

“You mistake the meaning of the passage, ‘Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace.’ The experience of sin is very different from the dominion of sin. The more you will advance in grace, and in conformity to the image of Christ, the more you will experience the strength of sin in your heart. You will never have experienced the working of sin in the heart as powerful as when you will be ripest for glory. . . .

“I have to tell you many things; but I do not know in what state you are, and perhaps it would be improper to refer to ordinary subjects. I may mention, however, that my friend Mr Sutherland from Edinburgh and myself sailed up Loch Lomond last Thursday. When coming back we left the boat at Tarbet— a place about mid-way up the Loch, and went across to another loch, down which we sailed to Kilmuir, Dunoon, Greenock, and other places and then returned home. If you look in the Atlas you will find that there is but a short distance between Loch Long and Loch Lomond. It was down the former Loch that we came. I spent ten shillings on the excursion, and I am now beginning to see the foolishness of spending so much in the pursuit of pleasure. I could not help going to the Loch, however: for I required to show every attention to my friend, and I received a good deal of instruction as well as of amusement from the trip.

“When sailing up Loch Lomond we made the acquaintance of three American ladies—one of them a very interesting creature. It was for her sake that the other two ladies were travelling; for one of them was her aunt, and the other her friend. She was evidently in very good circumstances, and was as lively and intelligent a young creature as I ever met with. But the saddest is to tell : she is evidently far gone in a decline—a thing of which she is quite sensible, although she says that her health has improved since she left America a few weeks ago. She is travelling from one place to another in pursuit of health—or, in other words, she is fleeing from death, while the grim tyrant seems as eager in pursuit. I felt very much interested in her (the three were Free Church), and would fain, if I had an opportunity, lead her to the physician that is in Gilead and to the balm that is there.....

“Last Sabbath I spoke in the forenoon from Isaiah ii. 8 ; and in the afternoon from Psalm xiv. 12, ‘Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up.’ I had no evening service, because there was a sermon in the neighbourhood for a collection in aid of the funds of the Public School in the village : and I did not wish to be the means of keeping any of the people from attending there. One Mr "Watson from L , a Free Churchman, officiated. His remarks were very good; only that he mistook the real meaning of his text, ‘Why stand ye here all the day idle! His grand mistake was taking for granted that the text applied to those in the vineyard, instead of those out of it. . . .”

“ 29th September.— . . . You say that sin has power over you. You should rather say that it has power in you. I hope —I believe—it has no power over you, because I believe that you have embraced the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savour. It may, however, have power in you—that is, you may feel its powerful workings in your soul, leading your soul into bondage; but that feeling is very different from your soul being under the dominion of sin. . . .

“No one can ever feel the strength of sin who never warred against its power. "What wars against sin—what hates, and what will ultimately destroy sin entirely, is the love of Christ in the soul. That holy flame—yea, though it were but a mere spark—will gradually consume every particle of sin in the soul.”

"6th November.— ... 0, how cruel is death! To me and to your other friends it is cruel—to you it will be a messenger of peace sent forth to bring you home to the bosom of your Father and your God. Fear not, He will be with you ; be not dismayed, fur He will be your God—yea, is your God. He will strengthen you, He will help you, He wall uphold you by the right hand of his righteousness. In the distance Death seems formidable. To our weak and doubting minds it often presents itself armed with terrors ; but these vanish on nearer approach. To the believer it has no sting, for Christ Jesus deprived it of the sting. It is not as Christ had to meet death that, I trust, you and I shall have to meet it. He met it in all its terrors and armed with its sting. That sting was thrust into the holy soul of the blessed Jesus; and hence it will never be thrust into any of His people. We may say that Death spent all his power—the power which sin gave to it—in accomplishing the death of Immanuel, so that it has no more power to spend against believers. The exhaustion of its strength was the death of death, and hence the death of Christ was the death of death. What a glorious truth ! How comfortable and consoling to the poor trembling Christian in prospect of death ! There was never death like the death of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. It was a death of great bodily pain and of intense mental agony. It was a death of shame and ignominy—an accursed death. He died bearing the iniquities of His people, and pressed down in His soul under the burden of conscious guilt—guilt which He did not contract, but which, in His love and mercy, He voluntarily took upon Himself—for the chastisement of His people’s peace—may I not say of your peace and my peace ?—was laid upon Him, that by His stripes we might be healed. The Lord laid upon Him the iniquities of us all. What a burden ! A burden too weighty for the whole world to sustain was laid upon His blessed shoulders, that our shoulders might be freed from the burden. He died without auy evidence or comfortable sense in His soul of His Father’s love to Him ; for His Father had withdrawn from His soul in the hour of His deepest sufferings the light of His eountenauce—which desertion eon-strained the Son to exclaim, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'

“You complain of darkness and forsaking, and of not experiencing God’s love in your soul. Christ experienced greater darkness and forsaking, and the comfortable assurance of His Father’s love was denied Him that his love might be throughout eternity filling the hearts of His people. In His divine nature He knew that His Father loved Him, for He knewr the whole mind of God ; but in His human nature that comfortable assurance was at this time withheld from Him; and notwithstanding all this He trusted in God and committed His soul into His Father’s hand. . . . And yet His Father loved Him at the very moment that He was forsaking Him by hiding His face from Him, the very moment when, as justice demanded, He was pouring the floods of His wrath into His soul. In the same way God loves His people, even when he smites and chastises them, and when they have no sense of His love in their souls. Is it not so with you often ? Remember then that Christ at the right hand of the Majesty on High still retains a fellow feeling with you in that very thing. . . .

“0 it is out of ourselves to Christ that we must go for love to warm and melt our cold frozen souls. His love must be poured into our souls; but the fire that will kindle love in us must come from God himself. It is not in us until He by His blessed spirit kindles it there. And after it is kindled it will soon go out, as far as our experience is concerned, unless God Himself by His Spirit will keep continually blowing at it. Look for new supplies of love to the source of love—that God who is love—and not to your own poor heart. The emptier your soul is kept the better, for that emptiness will give you a message to the fulness that is in Christ. . . . Remember it is only by looking upon Christ that the believer’s face will shine.

“I am glad that I can see you so soon; but how much greater would our joy be if we were meeting in perfect health? Is this world not indeed the vale of tears? Think how many a bitter tear has ever been shed upon it—how many oppressive groans have been uttered by the millions of creatures who have lived upon its surface—and then think of sin which has been the cause of all those tears and groans. They are happy who have been landed safely on the shores of that world where there is neither sorrow nor sighing. If there be any condition that I would envy it is that of the young Christian who is brought away early from the evil that is in the world. The heavenly husbandman—the Father—has especial care of the young and tender branches, and many of them are so dear in His sight that He will rather bring them home into His own bosom than expose them to the storms, tempests, and injuries to which they would be liable if left in the vineyard below. There is no safe anchorage for the believer’s soul but in the haven of glory. That hope which is the anchor of the believer’s soul owes its security to its entering within the veil whither the forerunner has entered. Let the Lord Jesus, who lives within the veil and who intercedes there for His people, be the pole-star of your faith and hope, and then although He were to call yon through the swellings of Jordan what would you have to fear? Everything is a blessing which brings the believer nearer his home. In this sense death itself is a blessing—death is a blessing since Christ by His death deprived it of its sting. . .

Glory be to God that such is the blessed consummation of the believer’s hopes.”

Here is how Mr Cameron contemplates a change of life on the part of his landlord, and the consequent necessity of a change of abode on his own part :—

“Three members of our Committee are after calling this minute. I was afraid when so many made their appearance that some unpleasant matter was to be communicated. Their business, however, has not been very disagreeable, though it is a little annoying. It seems that I must leave my present lodgings ; for my landlord has taken a marrying fit, which is agreeable enough to him although annoying to me. . . . The parlour and bed room are as comfortable and elegant as any apartments of their size could be, and hence I am very sorry leaving them. (I for contentment! Contentment is the very essence of happiness.”

It was a time of struggle for the station, but it survived, and Mr Cameron’s efforts in building up a congregation were early appreciated; for we find that a handsome presentation was made to him on the 26th October, 1855. He speaks of it thus :—

“I am sure you will be glad to hear of the presentation. The whole of Owen’s Works, and six sovereigns besides, form a very valuable gift. Indeed, the purse which contains the money would be a nice gift itself. If the Lord would pour out His spirit upon us, all would be well; but without the Spirit we will only be hardened. I had to make a speech when the books and the money were given me; but I am sorry that it was a failure, partly from want of preparation. You see there is always something to mortify us and to keep us humble.”

He began at this period to collect curious and rare books— some of them Gaelic—and made large purchases at sales' so much so that the story is still told that his landlady was in terror, and actually complained, that not only would the rooms give way, but that the house itself would soon come down unless a stop was put to the book-hunting and storing. This was merely the commencement of what proved a life-long pursuit and pleasure.

The last, and pathetic, reference to May Cattauach, his aunt, is interesting, and indicates mindfulness of one another to the end. Her death occurred when he was at Edinburgh, attending his last session in Divinity. How frequently people are permitted, Moses-like, to come in sight of what they most desire, and then required to depart this life without seeing their hopes realised :—

“21 Nelson Street, Jany. 10th, 1856.—I heard from I of my aunt’s death. I shall feel very curious and sad, if I shall be spared to go home, when she will not be before me. I am glad that 1 went home in the end of autumn, and that I saw her before her death. I have been much indebted to her.”

The Gaelic congregation of Paisley seem to have set their heart, and fixed their eye early on Mr Cameron, who writes, under date February 21st, from Alexandria:—

“There was a deputation from the Gaelic congregation, Paisley, in Renton last Sabbath. Their minister is going to leave them, and that was the reason which brought them down to hear me. I did not know they were in the congregation until they spoke to me after we dismissed. They wished me to go a Sabbath to Paisley, bat I do not know whether I shall go or not. I have been spoken to about going to Helmsdale, in Sutherland ; but there is no place in the world to which my mind is inclining. I wish to follow the guidance of Providence. I shrink as often as I think of the awful responsibility of the ministerial office.”

A little later he adds—

“The Gaelic congregation of Paisley have spoken to me repeatedly about accepting a call from them when I am licensed; but I do not know what to do, whether to take it or not.”

The account given by himself of his last Presbyterial examination, prior to being licensed, is somewhat instructive as a kind of precursor or prophecy of his after ecclesiastical experiences:—

“March 9th.—When I wrote you last I had very little expectation that I could be licensed for more than six months, because I was too late in applying for being taken on trials. I could not get on before November, unless either the Edinburgh Presbytery would agree to hold a special meeting on my account—a thing which I could never ask them to do—or the Dumbarton Presbytery would bring my case before the General Assembly, a thing which would involve considerable trouble and expense. The Edinburgh Presbytery met on the 27tli February, and unless they would meet again on or before the 6th March, I could not be recommended by them to the Synod. I went to the meeting on the 27th, and, although I did not ask them to meet again on or before the 6th March, when the Clerk stated my case, they agreed to meet on the Tuesday following—that is, the 4th March—to examine me, and recommend me to the Synod. It was exceedingly kind of them ; but I think I see the hand of the Lord in the matter. I was examined by Dr Candlish and two other minister's for two hours and a-half on Monday, the 3rd, which made the examination before the Presbytery merely a nominal one. The examination, and the preparation of my discourses for the Professors, kept me for some time very busy. I was working, I may say, day and night. I passed without any difficulty, and I am happy to tell you that I shall have no more examinations before I am licensed. I shall require to give in some discourses to the Presbytery, but I shall have no more examinations.”

The Renton people meanwhile were not forgetful of their own interests, as the following further extract shows:—

“A deputation from this congregation are after coming in to get me to agree to remain here at least mother quarter. I have promised them to remain with them for other three months, and by the end of that time it is now, of course, impossible to say what may happen.”

The following extracts reveal, on the one hand, unfailing sympathy and tenderness, and on the other deep-rooted humility, with no confidence in abilities or attainments : —

“April 9th.—God has brought you in His great mercy to I saving knowledge of His Son Jesus Christ, and if He is now to take you home to Himself, the change will be unspeakably better for you than if He were to leave you many years in this dreary wilderness, in which there is no happiness to be enjoyed but what comes from God Himself. The corn for all of believers on earth flows from seeing Christ by faith ; but in heaven they shall see (Him face to face, and sin can no more come between them and the smiles of their Beloved. It is meet to be drinking in the love of God on earth out of the cup of the promise: but Oh! it will be unspeakably sweeter to be drinking out of the fountain than out of the purest of the streams. . . . It is true that the Lord in His holy and wise providence has made the furnace, in which He has placed you to purify you by revealing to you more and more of the evil of your own heart, and more and more of the unspeakable preciousness of His Son, very hot. Your sufferings have been great, but the Lord has hitherto sustained you, and He will do so to the end ; and hot though the furnace be, the trial is not of such long continuance, as it would be if He were pleased to leave you long exposed to the trials and temptations of the wilderness. A short though stormy passage to the heavenly country is far preferable to a long and dreary journey such as Israel, on account of their sin, had in the wilderness.

“May 16th.—I am very much afraid that I have not the necessary qualifications for the great work of preaching the gospel. I have been very much distressed with the thought this day, that I do not know whether any one got good through me. See how long I have been preaching! I know of a few cases of individuals becoming seriously inclined through the instrumentality of my discourses; but I do not know of a single individual that I have been the means of leading to the Saviour, and of espousing to the glorious Husband of the Church. I would not mind, however, if I thought the Lord wished me to be engaged in this work.”

Referring tc the cases of two anxious young men, he says:—

“These, however, are cases of conviction, and although it rejoices me to hear of them, it would rejoice me much more to hear of cases of decided conversion .... I sometimes think that I have need of being further enlightened as to the way of bringing sinners to Christ—indeed, that I have yet to learn the art of winning souls is what I am much afraid of.”

A preacher may expect, as part of the afflictions incident to his office, to be subjected to occasional misconception, misconstruction, and consequent annoyance. Mr Cameron did not escape this kind of aggrieved criticism:—

“June 5th.—I consider it a sign for good that my preaching is stirring up the enmity of the carnal mind against me, as is manifest in the case of the . They thought that I was preaching last Sabbath against them when I was bringing forward no truth but what was plainly according to the divisions of my discourse. The Sabbath before that I was speaking in the afternoon from the words, ‘ If any man be in Christ he is a new creature,’ &c., and in speaking of some false kinds of conversion I said that I wished to be kept from the kind of preaching which brought the terrors of the law to bear upon the affections or feelings, and which did not enlighten the understanding. I said also that there was another kind of preaching very dangerous, which drew a picture of the external sufferings of the Saviour— that is, the sufferings of his body—before the imagination; for that, although such a picture would excite the feelings that it would never melt the heart, or that it would not be saving knowledge. I am sure I said the same things scores of times before; but it seems that never thought about the subject before, for he has been telling some of the people that this is erroneous doctrine.”

Regarding his twenty-ninth birthday (14th July) he writes:—

“It is a long time to live without having done much for Christ. How much had been done by MacCheyne before he arrived at my age ; and how much had been done by Andrew Gray, of Glasgow, before he was 22, the year at which he died.”

Unpunctual attention to correspondence is ingeniously accounted for thus: —

“August 12.—I feel that I owe you an apology for being so long without writing you. For some time I fancied that I had written to let you know that Mr A—would go to see my father and yourself; but I suspect that I did not write, although I had been thinking so long about writing that I had persuaded myself that I had actually written.”

Mr Cameron’s well known hospitality dates from an early period, for, under the above date, we find:—

“I have a pious student from Glasgow living with me at present. He win stay for some time.”

It will no doubt interest many to insert here Mr Cameron’s account and Impressions of his first visit to Arran, where he met Mr Davidson, the minister lie afterwards succeeded, and also had long talks with the most learned and best known of his Professors —Rabbi Duncan :—

“Renton, September 2nd.—In my last I promised to give yon, in my nest communication, an account of my journey to Arran. I shall now endeavour to do so very briefly. I left this place, as I have already told you, on Thursday morning in a steamer which sails between Glasgow and Arran, and which calls at Rothesay on its way. At Rothesay, Mr Macleod from Rogart, came into the boat, according to previous arrangement. When we arrived at Brodick, a small village in the island of Arran, we did not know where to find lodgings. The place was crammed with strangers. We had gone to no fewer than fourteen houses, in none of which we could find accommodation. I happened to meet a fellow-student on the road, who was living down there with his widowed mother and sister. Mr Macleod was acquainted with his mother many years before in the Isle of Skye, where his father owned at one time a small estate They made a shift in order to provide us with a bed for the night in their own lodgings ; but as Mr Macleod and myself could have only one bed between us I resolved to make some further search for a bed for myself, and I was soon successful in getting a small bedroom, foi which I paid 1s 6d for the night. My landlady was an old pious woman, I was led to know. The little room in my father’s house would bring 12s or 15s in the week in Arran. Such a place I never saw. The Duke of Hamilton, who is the proprietor of the island, will not let the people build houses for strangers. Nearly all the present dwellings are mere huts, and yet they fetch enormous rents, the accommodation is so very scarce, and so many strangers resort to the island in summer, on account of the salubrity of the climate. . .

“On Friday we called at Mr Davidson’s, the Free Church minister at Brodick. ... I staid only a few minutes. He and his daughters were, however, very kind to me, and made me take some luncheon. I then left to go by steamer to Lamlasli, another village a few miles further away on the coast than Brodick. I did not stay any time at Lamlash, but walked to a place called Whiting Bay, four miles farther away, and where I knew Dr Duncan, from Edinburgh, to be staying. When I gained Dr Duncan’s, I found him very busy learning Gaelic. You know he is one of the Professors in the New College. He is staying in Arrau during the summer for the benefit of his health. After asking me some questions about Gaelic grammar, and giving me something to eat, the doctor went out with me to search for a bed, and we were no time in finding one. Whiting Bay is very throng, but not nearly so crammed as Brodick. I spent the whole of the afternoon of Friday and the forenoon of Saturday with the Doctor, talking at one time about Gaelic, and at another about theology and Christian experience. I admire the doctor above almost every other man. He is simple as a child, and yet is most profound. I would never tire sitting at his feet, when lie begins to speak about any department of theology.”

In the same letter we find the following allusion to the progress of matters at Benton. A congregational meeting was called, at which Mr Macrae, Greenock, and Mr Anderson, Rothesay, were present:—

“At the meeting Mr Macrae preached a short sermon and then addressed the people on the desirableness of getting a church for themselves. Mr Anderson then addressed them shortly, and a committee was appointed to collect subscriptions. Mr Campbell, Tulliechewen, sent a conveyance to bring Mr Macrae and Mr Anderson to his Castle to remain there all night, and that he might learn from them the object of the meeting. Mr Campbell promised to give them £100 if the people themselves contribute £300. I have no doubt of the people contributing more than £300 from among themselves and others in the district who may be disposed to help them; for the manager gives £50, and my landlord gives other £30—so that all we require is £200—and a considerable portion of that sum is already subscribed.”

He also adds—

“I have given a final refusal to Paisley. ... I am very sorry indeed that they waited so long for me, without looking out for some other person, since they are disappointed at last. I am not, however, to blame for their waiting, for I never gave them any ground to hope that I would accept a call from them, and I frequently urged them to look out for another, as I could not see that I was suitable for the place. ’Adieu the people here have some need to move in the direction of getting a church for themselves, it would never do for lie to leave them; for my leaving them at present would discourage them in their undertaking.”

Mr Cameron was duly licensed by the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh on Thursday, 20th November, 1856 ; and the proceedings are best described in his own words :—

“Renton, November 24th.—I have been so busy for the last two weeks that I had no time to write even a short note. 1 was two nights so busy with my discourses for the Presbytery that I had not gone to bed at all. I had gone to Edinburgh on the 12th of this month, and after sitting all day in the Presbytery House I did not get even one of my discourses read ; for they had been so much occupied with other things that they could not afford time to hear me read. I went back again last Thursday, and that day they had not much business to transact, so that I got all my discourses read at the one meeting, and was then licensed; so that after ten long years—years which, however, I did not consider long while they were passing—I am finished with my studies, although in one sense they may be said to be only commencing. When I look back across these ten years what memories they recall!

“I would not have got all my discourses read on Thursday were it not for Mr Macrae, Greenock, who spoke to Dr Candlish and to Sir Henry Moncrieff urging them to get me through that day that I might preach for him in Greenock on Sabbath. But although I should not get through that day I would get through on the 4th or 5th of next month at the latest. I have been for some time under promise to give Mr Macrae a few Sabbaths us soon as I should be licensed. I accordingly preached my first sermon—if I may call it my first sermon when I have been preaching now for so many months—on Sabbath—that is, yesterday—in the Gaelic Church, Greenock.”

Return to his Memoir Index Page


This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus